What are “Pantry Basics?” They’re the items that are pretty much fundamental to our everyday cooking and what our modern society has typically always bought from stores. They include things like:
- salad dressings
- condiments (mayo, ketchup, etc)
- snack foods
- baking items
It’s been a surprising revelation over the years to realize that most – if not all – of the things I had always bought could be quickly and cheaply made at home. And they taste better, too.
I’m sure some people think I’m a little weird when I tell them I make my own cocoa mix, or ketchup or mayonnaise. But you know what? I used to think the same thing years ago if I heard of someone who made things that were easy to get and relatively cheap. I’d think, “I’ve got lots of things better to do with my time.”
But then I started reading labels. Curses! High fructose corn syrup. Polysorbate 80 or 60. Hydrogenated vegetable oils. BHT. Gums. Fillers. Artificial color. Preservatives. Things I couldn’t pronounce. And I’d think, “But it should be tomato, vinegar, sugar, and spices.” or “All I want is chocolate, sugar, and water – why are there 11 ingredients?” It wasn’t even an issue of debating the individual ingredients and if they were or were not good for you (I’ll leave that for other blogs!)- the ingredients just seemed so complicated for items I thought should be simple.
Suddenly, I realized that taking a bit of my day to make quality food for myself and my family was actually a very good use of my time. So I have gathered a number of recipes and techniques that I will be sharing in the hopes that you, too, will find (and be pleasantly surprised, too) what I have found:
- They really are easy! It takes less time to make than to run to the store to buy.
- They are made with items I usually have in my pantry.
- They are cheaper than store-bought, even though they are relatively inexpensive at the store.
- If you want to customize them (agave syrup? organic tomatoes?), they become WAY cheaper than the store brands.
- It’s a great feeling to serve them knowing what’s in them AND that I still have time to do all those other things.
So, to start us out, I’m sharing today that most standard of pantry items: ketchup (or catsup- I never have figured out why there are two names…). Easy and crazy-good, it’s the perfect introduction to Pantry Basics:
Update: this is the original recipe that started me down the path to making most of my family’s pantry staples, but I now make the recipe using only honey, which I shared here.
- 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
- ½ c. sugar (half brown, half white, all brown, raw - you choose)
- ½ c. vinegar
- ¼ c. water
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. onion powder
- ⅛ tsp. garlic powder
- Combine until smooth in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes (you'll need to partially cover because it will spit hot tomato out at even the lowest simmer).
- Keep refrigerated (it keeps for months in the fridge).